The list of artists is impressive: Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso. But rather than originating from a museum brochure advertising a modern art exhibition, the name registry comes from the Rotterdam police website.
Works from these masters and others were stolen on Monday night out of the Dutch city's Kunsthal museum in one of the most dramatic art heists Europe has seen in recent years. A total of seven paintings disappeared in the theft, with pieces by Lucian Freud and Meyer de Haan missing as well.
Kunsthal director Emily Ansenk told Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad on Tuesday that she was "speechless," adding: "This is the worst thing that can ever happen to a museum director."
Both the police and the museum, which is celebrating its 20th birthday this year, declined to put a value on the lost paintings. But given the artists involved, it is likely to be substantial. Dutch art historian Jhim Lamoree told Dutch broadcaster RTL that the value of the artworks could be as high as 100 million.
Stolen for Ransom?
Experts, however, believe that it will be next to impossible for the thieves to sell the works. Job Ubbens, director of the Christie's auction house in Amsterdam, told Dutch newswire ANP that the burglary is "very stupid" if the thieves hoped to turn the art into money. He suggested that the likeliest scenario is that they were stolen to later demand ransom money for them.
The theft is believed to have taken place between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. and appears to have been well-planned. Police on Tuesday were still in the process of looking for clues and analyzing footage from the museum's video surveillance system. The Kunsthal, designed by influential architect Rem Koolhaas, does not have its own collection. The current exhibition is made up of works from the privately owned Triton Foundation collection, and opened just last week.
According to the police and media reports, the list of stolen paintings includes Pablo Picasso's "Tête d'Arlequin," Henri Matisse's "la Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune," Claude Monet's "Waterloo Bridge, London" and "Charing Cross Bridge, London," Paul Gauguin's "Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, dite la Fiancée," Meyer de Haan's "Autoportrait," and Lucian Freud's "Woman with Eyes Closed."